By Kat Coe
Boise State University
I first met Larry Perry when I was 16. He was the fire chief at North Ada County Fire and Rescue. My stepdad had called his friend Larry and gotten me a job at the Glenwood firehouse as a temporary secretary. Larry was a feisty guy with a big heart who was clearly in charge. He retired from his position in 1999; I still call him “Chief.”
For the last three years, Perry has been chief of another kind of rescue operation. Larry heads up a team of 50 volunteers at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship’s Food Pantry. In partnership with The Idaho Foodbank, they help rescue people in Garden City and the surrounding area from the smoldering ache of hunger.
“We’ve got at least 50 regular people,” he said of his volunteers. “I’ve got a lot of folks who are retired and want something to do with their time. I’ve got a lot of housewives who come down to do something good – they want to give to the community. We’ve got people from the garden who come in to volunteer during the winter.” (The Vineyard also has its own garden, which produced over 30,000 pounds of produce last summer.) “We’ve had people volunteering who are working off their (sentencing) time through community service.”
Chief looks at me kind of sideways when I ask him why he thinks people volunteer at the pantry. “People like to help other people,” he says. “It makes them feel good.”
Perry is proud of his volunteers, even when they don’t exactly follow “procedure.” He laughs, “My volunteers put together the best food boxes in the valley.” After explaining that volunteers at the Vineyard have a tendency to be overly generous in their box-filling, he shrugs his shoulders, “They’re volunteers. It’s hard to fire volunteers. If they don’t feel good about what they’re doing, you lose ‘em. So, they want to give people more? Who blames them?”
I love that about Chief Perry. He’s still the guy with the big heart, still clearly in charge. I ask him how he feels about people who consider programs like his a “hand-out,” rather than a “hand-up.” He opens his Bible to Acts, Chapter 2 and reads to me about the fellowship of believers, “They sold their property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” He smiles and shrugs again, “Pretty much sums it up for me.”
In September 2007, the Vineyard’s pantry served 343 households. In September, 2010, September 465 households were served. Over 100,000 pounds of that food came from The Idaho Foodbank.
The Vineyard Christian Fellowship is located at 4950 N. Bradley, in the heart of Garden City. The food pantry is open every Wednesday and Saturday morning from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The Idaho Foodbank is an independent 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization
comprised of a partner network of more than 200 hunger relief agencies
throughout the state of Idaho.